When Cui Jian – “the godfather of Chinese rock ‘n’ roll” – took the stage of Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium last month, he greeted the cheering crowd of 8,000 by proclaiming, “So much has changed in China since the last time we played here, and so fast. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed. . .”
Before he could deliver the punch line, the audience roared out its own answer: “Cui Jian! Cui Jian hasn’t changed!”
Cui Jian, of course, has evolved considerably since that heady day back in 1986 when he jumped onto the stage of the Workers’ Stadium in peasant garb and sang the now-classic “Nothing to My Name” on a nationally televised talent competition. The performance brought him instant popularity – and, in older, more conservative circles, a seemingly unshakeable notoriety – and set him on a lifelong odyssey as China’s most prominent rock musician.